Representative Doug Stang

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 1/6/98.

Rep. Doug Stang, R-Paynesville, expects the bonding bill to receive a lot of attention in the upcoming legislative session. “The state is probably looking at the largest bonding bill in the state’s history,” Stang said.

Early projections had the bonding bill at $550 to $600 million. Stang said the figures are looking more like $750 million to $2 billion. He explained the amount a state can bond is based on the revenue generated from taxes. Due to the surplus, the state can bond for a larger amount over a 30-year period.

“Some projects in the bonding bill might need to be put off. I hate to see future generations pay for something that we bond for today,” Stang added.

Stang said about $212 million of the bonding bill will be going to parks and trails. The state park system has been neglected in the past.

“Legislators will be careful what they attach to the bill if they want it to be approved. It has been suggested the stadium be added, but I think that would kill the bill,” Stang said. “Unlike other bills, the bonding will need two-thirds of the vote to pass.”

The stadium issue will once again be brought before the House and Senate. Stang doesn’t expect much more will happen than during the special session. “The state saw through the Pohlad family’s bluff last fall and were turned off by their tactics,” Stang said. “Yet, the Pohlads are expecting to get the people’s support for a new stadium.”

Stang feels the Pohlads want the Twins to stay in Minnesota. Large businesses threw their support behind the stadium and raised the needed funds for box seats. “I think if the businesses get together, they could come up with the money to build the stadium,” Stang added. “I feel there is enough interest. The issue is far from over. But I don’t think it has much chance of passing through the House again this session.”

Stang said the special session was unbelievable. “People were getting involved with the process by writing letters and making phone calls to legislators,” he stressed. “I feel that was a positive aspect of the stadium issue.”

Another issue coming before the Legislature this session will be the education bill. “We passed a bill last year, but during this session many areas will need to be defined and fine tuned for clarification. There were too many areas left unanswered,” he said.

One part of the education bill which many school districts would like to see eliminated is the extra three days of school added last year. “I think there will be a big push to eliminate those extra three days,” Stang said. “When school districts across the state don’t have the same student-teacher contract days, it makes it difficult to add three extra days. Schools with limited budgets will need to cut from other areas to add the three days.”

The electric deregulation proposal will probably need to wait until the 1999 session, Stang said. “This will be such a big issue, it will be hard to cover in a short session. I feel it will take this year and the next to hammer out all the controversial segments. This bill could put many of the smaller electric companies out of business. It would open up electric rates and the rural areas could suffer.”

“At present the state controls and regulates electric prices to keep electricity affordable. I don’t feel the state can completely deregulate the system. It is hard to say what effect this will have on businesses at this point. We need to be careful not to hurt the consumers,” Stang said.

Stang said the state’s budget surplus will generate a lot of different proposals this session. At present, a percentage of the property tax is dedicated to the property tax reform account.

Stang said there would probably be another rebate designated to taxpayers in 1998 due to the surplus.

Both Republican and Democratic caucuses are talking about possible income tax cuts, Stang said. “Both parties are talking on the same wave length for a change,” he added. “People are paying too much in taxes and the surplus is proof of that. It would be irresponsible of the Legislature to spend the surplus and not give any of it back to the taxpayer.”
Stang added that Highway 23 is a high priority project before the transportation committee on which he is a member. “The four-lane highway had come up before the committee quite a bit but is not on the funding list yet. It costs about $1 million per mile to build.”

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